Writing challenges

laelene Post in general blog,Tags: , , , ,

Yesterday was the deadline to apply to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business in the second round (there are three rounds each year and you can apply in any single one you choose).  This entire week, I had been working to perfect everything for my application, particularly my essays.  I had found the Harvard Business School essays to be easier to tackle, with only a few rewrites.  When it came to Stanford’s though, I was a mess.  Let’s take a look at both schools’ prompts:


  1. Tell us about three of your accomplishments.
  2. Tell us three setbacks you have faced.
  3. Why do you want an MBA?
  4. Answer a question you wish we had asked.

Stanford GSB

  1. What matters most to you, and why?
  2. What do you want to do – REALLY – and why Stanford?
  3. Tell us about a time when you made a lasting impact on your organization.
  4. Tell us about a time when you generated support from others for an idea or initiative.

I felt like Harvard’s were more practical and Stanford’s were more emotional, if that makes sense.  What made Stanford’s challenging for me was how personal those first two are.  It was really getting to the core of what is meaningful to me and it’s hard to express something you believe in so deeply.  I had to work backwards, first sharing stories of my workplace successes, then tackling what I want to do and what matters to me.

The first versions of my responses to questions 1 and 2 came out extremely idealistic.  I realized that I sounded like my mind was in the clouds and my feet weren’t on the ground.  I knew I had to present things in a more concrete manner so the selection committee could see the logic behind how what mattered to me drove what I wanted to do and why that all tied into going to business school.  Unfortunately, I cared so much about properly expressing something so close to my heart that nothing sounded right.  I would write a paragraph and start the next only to decide that I wanted to add a paragraph to the beginning instead.  I labored over those two for so long!

Finally, I was satisfied with how the second essay came out, but I was still pretty stumped by the first.  How do you share your greatest dreams without sounding unrealistic?  Again and again, I would rewrite my response to that question until I started to create a structure that made sense.  I then made the very smart move of sending my writing to Maven for a proofread.  One of my greatest challenges in writing essays is making everything flow.  I tend to let my ideas out stream-of-consciousness style, which usually results in random connections and scattered ideas.  He was able to help me reorder some of my sentences to make my structure infinitely better!  At that point, I was finally ready to turn everything in.  I had put forth a great effort and now it was time to officially apply to one of the most prestigious programs in the world.

I feel so relieved now that it’s in and strangely, I’m not really nervous about decision day.  That’s probably just because it’s still over two months away!  As the time nears, I’m sure I will nervously anticipate the news and hope for the best.  I can really see myself going to a top business school and excelling.

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